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What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception is the memoir of Scott McClellan, who served as White House Press Secretary from 2003 until 2006 under President George W. Bush. The book was scheduled to be released on June 2, 2008; however, excerpts were released to the press a week before publication. The book quickly became a media sensation for its insider's criticism of the Bush administration and ran as a leading story on most top news outlets days after the content became public.


In the book, McClellan harshly criticizes the Bush administration. He accuses Bush of "self-deception" and of maintaining a "permanent campaign approach" to governing, rather than making the best choices. McClellan stops short of saying Bush purposely lied about his reasons for invading Iraq (in fact, stating flatly that he did not believe that Bush would intentionally lie), writing that the administration was not "employing out-and-out deception" to make the case for war in 2002, though he does assert the administration relied on an aggressive "political propaganda campaign" instead of the truth to sell the Iraq war. The book is also critical of the press corps for being too accepting of the administration's perspective on the Iraq War, and of Condoleezza Rice for being "too accommodating" and overly careful about protecting her own reputation.


Political figures

Former White Housemarker Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove went on Fox's Hannity & Colmes, cast doubt on the authorship of the book and condemned McClellan himself, saying "First of all, this doesn't sound like Scott. It really doesn't, not the Scott McClellan I've known for a long time, it sounds like somebody else. It sounds like a left-wing blogger. Second of all, you're right. If he had these moral qualms, he should have spoken up about them."

Former Senator and former Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole sent McClellan a biting email in which he said, "There are miserable creatures like you in every administration who don’t have the guts to speak up or quit if there are disagreements with the boss or colleagues." He continued, "No, your type soaks up the benefits of power, revels in the limelight for years, then quits and, spurred on by greed, cashes in with a scathing critique."

White House response

The Bush administration issued a statement about the book through Press Secretary Dana Perino, who said, "Scott, we now know, is disgruntled about his experience at the White House. We are puzzled. It is sad. This is not the Scott we knew." The administration additionally took exception to the claim that they had misled the nation in the lead up to the war in Iraq, as Perino said, "He's suggesting that we purposely misled. There is no new evidence of that."

Congressional response

In response to the claims made by McClellan in the book, Congressman Robert Wexler (D-FL) and Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), who is the Chair of the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, have called upon McClellan to testify under oath in front of Congress.

McClellan response

McClellan has responded by stating that his role as White House Press Secretary was not to make policy (though he also said that he should've raised his objections at the time), contending that he was inclined to give the Administration the "benefit of the doubt," and that he did not fully appreciate the circumstances until after leaving the "White House bubble."


While McClellan's book advance was for a comparatively low $75,000, What Happened reached the number-one position on the sales chart of, and its printing was quadrupled to more than 300,000 copies by its publisher, PublicAffairs.


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